Royal Bank of Scotland to sell Stamford building
The embattled Royal Bank of Scotland is putting its downtown Stamford office building up for sale, but it plans to keep operating there for many more years, Hearst Connecticut Media has learned.
RBS’ decision fits into a cost-cutting plan for a firm whose chronic financial and regulatory troubles have led to hundreds of layoffs in recent years at its regional headquarters at 600 Washington Blvd. The sale is not expected to directly affect the approximately 500 employees who remain in Stamford and focus on RBS’ NatWest Markets corporate and institutional banking services.
“As we have reduced the size of our global footprint, it now makes economic sense for RBS to sell the building at 600 Washington Blvd., and lease back the office space that we require,” RBS said in a statement. “Our NatWest Markets U.S. sales and trading operations in Stamford remain a core part of our business, providing our customers with access to the U.S. dollar markets across currencies, rates and financing.”
The bank declined to name its asking price for 600 Washington, which was appraised last year at about $150 million, according to the Vision Appraisal property database.
RBS also did not immediately comment on how the sale would affect its plan to construct two residential buildings, with a total of 456 units, on vacant land adjacent to the office block.
Commercial real estate firm JLL, RBS’ exclusive U.S. leasing and sales agent, would broker the sale, which is expected to be completed between the summer and fall of this year.
RBS’ lease-back agreement with the new owner would run for 10 years, according to JLL officials.
“This property will appeal to a wide variety of buyers because it’s a prime location with incredible quality and a credit-worthy tenancy,” said JLL Managing Director Gil Ohls. “You’ve got three of the largest banks representing three of the wealthiest countries in the world. It’s hard to get stronger than that.”
At 600 Washington, RBS takes about 90,000 square feet in the 12-floor building, according to JLL. Another investment-banking giant, Switzerland’s UBS, occupies about 120,000 square feet, while Citizens Bank takes about 35,000 square feet. The 11th floor, the top office level, has vacant space for additional tenants.
In the same structure, Bank of America plans to open later this year an approximately 115,000-square-foot center. The sale would not affect BoA’s plans at 600 Washington, a company spokeswoman said Monday.
RBS opened the steel-and-glass tower in 2009. A package of up to $100 million in state tax credits supported a company investment of $400 million in the hub.
Fiscal and regulatory troubles have wracked the firm in the years since it established its Stamford presence.
The impact of the 2008 financial crisis led to a bailout by the British government. United Kingdom Treasury officials announced Monday a plan to sell a 7.7 percent stake in RBS, reducing its ownership to about 62 percent as the bank moves toward privatization.
Between 2008 and 2016, RBS incurred nine consecutive annual losses. The company bounced back in 2017 with a profit of about $1 billion.
Last month, RBS announced it had agreed to a $4.9 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve an investigation into the bank’s sale and underwriting of mortgage-backed securities in the lead-up to the financial crisis.
Among other recent U.S. cases, state Attorney General George Jepsen announced in October 2016 a $120 million settlement with the bank tied to its oversight of mortgage-backed securities. It represented the largest penalty against a company in the state’s history.
In February 2017, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission ordered RBS to pay an $85 million civil penalty to settle charges that traders at the Stamford offices tried to manipulate a benchmark for interest-rate products during a period spanning the financial crisis.
Stemming from the losses and fines, the bank has laid off about 750 Stamford-based employees since the beginning of 2015.
RBS’ jobs cuts created the space for the other tenants at 600 Washington. In 2016, UBS transferred its own reduced Stamford operations from the office tower and annex across the street at 677 Washington Blvd.
Covering more than 700,000 square feet, 677 Washington now stands as the city’s largest office vacancy.
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